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"Memories of growing up and living along the constant, calming waters of Spain Creek in northeastern
Champaign County, Ohio."

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Available September 8th!
"Along Spain Creek: Volume 3"




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"Along Spain Creek: Volume 1"

My first book,
"Along Spain Creek: Volume 1"
is available now on Amazon.com
in paperback or Kindle editions.
Small town humor, pathos, mystery, people,
places and things are all to be found in this
first volume of stories, experiences, tall tales,
and historical notes.


The trilogy continues!
Along Spain Creek: Volume 2,
is now available on Amazon.com
in standard paperback or Kindle editions.
These publications are not numbered, not limited first editions, and are not personalized.

Along Spain Creek: Volume 2
Numbered, Limited First Editions, and Personalized
are now available!

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Along Spain Creek: Volume 3
Numbered, Limited First Editions, and Personalized
will be available on or after
Monday, September 8, 2014
$19.99
plus $2.00 s/h
Preorders are now being accepted!
Your personalized copy of Volume 3
will be shipped on September 8th!
"Along Spain Creek: Volume 3"
in both paperback and Kindle versions
will be available on Amazon.com
on Monday, September 8, 2014,
if you prefer to order via that outlet.
Copies of the book purchased via Amazon.com
are not personalized, numbered, limited first editions.

Coming on November 3rd:


"Coping With, Challenging, and Conquering Cancer"
This book will recount the author's personal battle against
metastatic melanoma cancer,
from inception in 1998 to the declaration
of "cancer free" in 2005.
The book will include timely information about
cancer-related resources and preventative measures.
It will prove helpful to readers who face cancer in their
own lives, or in the lives of their loved ones.
Coming in December 2014!
$19.99
"Second Benjamin"
This is an historical novel, set within the era of
the Civil War and its aftermath.
It is the story of one patriot's journey from
rural Ohio to the battles in which he participated,
of the sacrifices he endured along the way,
and his eventual struggles with disabilities.
All books will be available through Amazon.com
in both paperback and Kindle versions.
If you would like to purchase
non-personalized, non-numbered, non-limited edition copies
of
"Along Spain Creek: Volume 1"
via
Amazon.com
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of
"Along Spain Creek: Volume 2"
via
Amazon.com
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Order your copy of "Along Spain Creek: Volume 1" OR "Along Spain Creek: Volume 2" OR "Along Spain Creek: Volume 3"

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Also Available
"Along Spain Creek: The Trilogy"
All THREE Volumes (1, 2, & 3) in a matched, personalized, numbered, limited first edition set!
This is a great buy for patrons who have not yet purchased any of the volumes!
Order NOW and save $5!
Set of THREE Volumes...$50.97 with discount!

Also Available
16-Month "Along Spain Creek" Calendar
This attractive calendar, 8 1/2 inches x 11 inches
provides you with 16 months of space
to write in your important activities!
Sixteen vintage photos of the "Along Spain Creek" area!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Away From the Creek


As an adult, I moved away from the familiar things I knew as a young boy growing up along Spain Creek.  I served in the United States Army, and thus had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and the Pacific area of the world.  Some of my fondest memories are associated with my time in service.
 
During my military career, I had the great good fortune, and many golden opportunities to enjoy exceptional duty assignments.  While stationed at Fort Drum, New York, I was invited to write my definition of an Army family in competition with many other non-commissioned officers.  Here is what I submitted:

 
What Is An Army Family?

©  1993  Ralph Lowell Coleman, Jr.

 

An Army Family is…
 

            …awakening early in the morning and turning off the alarm clock before it sounds, so the rest of the family  isn’t awakened.
 
            …dressing in a PT uniform in a semi-darkened room, and trying to leave the house without disturbing the kids…or the dog.
 
            …returning home a short time later to find your companion bustling around the kitchen, the kids headed out to school, and the trash pick-up man just two doors down the street.
 
            …trying to find a clean towel and washcloth as part of that “personal hygiene” time, and showering in a bathroom mined with Barbie dolls and rubber ducks.

             …wondering who used your personal toothbrush to polish the sink’s chrome fixtures.

            …looking everywhere for your BDU cap, only to eventually find it on your youngest son’s head, as he soundly sleeps in his bed.
 
                ...lacing up your combat boots on which your pre-teen son practiced his “spit-shining” techniques last night.

                …thinking about the other son…the eldest…who is on the other side of the continent, pursuing “higher education” and the girls.

                …participating in Youth Activities and Boy Scouts, band concerts and school open houses, volunteer work, and religious observances.

                …short good-byes, and long separations when those “unaccompanied tours of duty” demand sacrifices of everyone.

                …friendships which date back over nearly two decades, and a kaleidoscope of military posts here and across the seas.

                …going to bed at night, mentally exhausted and bone-tired, but ready…and willing…to face it all again in the morning.

An Army family is…love, and service, and dedication, and commitment, and sacrifice, and joy, and sorrow, and friendships, and compassion, and pride, and patriotism, and…oh, so many memories!

Thank you to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, and to their loved ones who support them as they continue to “protect and defend.”


I was fortunate to win the writing competition. 
My wife and I received an all-expenses-paid weekend vacation at a resort along the Saint Lawrence River, New York.

       

 

 

 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nooning At Ed and Mary Bates' House


Some people develop reputations among the other residents of a community.  Some of those reputations are very, very good.  Others are…well, not quite so good.  Boys who worked the many, many farms in the area of North Lewisburg during the hay and straw seasons of the summer developed a network of information about good places to work…and places which were not so good to work.

            Ed and Mary Bates lived on a very productive farm west of North Lewisburg, on State Route 245 (State Route 275 ‘back in the day).  Ed had a reputation, deserved or not, of being a taskmaster over those who worked for him.  There was a lot of work to be done on the farm, and he was not one to dilly dally in the process.  He expected the boys he hired to work diligently and to accomplish that work in a timely, efficient manner.  He paid the going wages at the time, and was even known to occasionally top those wages with a well-earned bonus.  He sometimes yelled at workers when they were not necessarily paying strict attention to their duties and responsibilities.  But he also recognized good workers, and called them back again and again to help with the baling projects.  It was dirty, physically intensive work, usually from mid morning (after the hay had dried sufficiently) until late afternoon or early evening.  There was work to be done on the wagons which traveled out to the fields to transport the hay or straw back to the barn.  There was work to be done when those laden wagons arrived back at the unloading site.  There was work to be done in the hot, stifling, and irritating lofts at the top of the barn.  There was work to be done at the end of the day when the equipment was cleaned up and readied for the next day’s tasks.

            Mary Bates had a reputation as a phenomenal cook and baker!  Her pies and cakes and other bakery concoctions were greatly appreciated at the various social functions held at the Methodist Church.  Her beef and noodle, or chicken and noodle, main dishes were likewise greeted with great enthusiasm at potluck dinners or fund-raising events.  And the meals which she often served to the boys who labored on the farm were savored and genuinely appreciated.

            Nooning is a traditional event associated with farm labor.  It was not always known by that name on some farms and in some areas of the county, but it had a history which stretched back over many, many years.  Labor-intensive gatherings of men and women required mounds of food and drink to quench the appetites and to meet the energy needs of the laborers.  Even when the workforce on the Bates farm was two or three or four boys, Mary did her very best to produce memorable meals!

            Workers came in from the fields in dirty clothes, hands, arms, faces, necks, and head covered with the minute particles of hay or straw dust which accumulated everywhere.  Clothes were brushed, shirts were removed to shake out the chaff which had blown inside them, hands, arms, faces, necks, and heads were liberally doused with cold water.  Rivulets of water and hay or straw debris were shaken off into the dust.  The summer heat generally dried the wet hands, arms, face, neck and head quickly.  But there were towels near-at-hand, just in case.

            The workers were welcomed into Mary’s house, and escorted to the large dining room table.  Foods of all sorts graced the table.  Cold lemonade, or iced tea, or cold milk sat in pitchers.  Mashed potatoes and gravy, and beef, or one of her famous beef-and-noodle or chicken-and-noodle main dishes were available.  There were green beans, and beets, and corn, and carrots.  There were peaches, or an apple pie or cobbler, or watermelon, or sundry other fruit treats.  There was home-made bread, with rich, creamy butter, and preserves or jelly.  It was always…always…a meal worthy of a king!

            Light conversation transpired as the food and beverages were consumed.  At the meal’s conclusion, Mary cleared the table, put away the leftovers, and scraped and cleaned the dishes.    Ed generally moved over to his favorite, most comfortable chair where he enjoyed a few minutes of quiet repose.  The boy workers likewise moved to nearby chairs, or walked outside to lay quietly in the shade while the balance of the respite continued.  The noon break was almost always an hour-and-a-half in length…enough time to savor the meal which had just been consumed, and to lull in a state of rapture while awaiting the call to return to work.

            Ed made the next move, with a call to the boys.  They were ushered from the house, or gathered from their places on the lawn, and returned to their various duties.  The work began anew, until the project was completed or until the darkening shadows of night made it no longer practical to continue working.  If the work was done, wages were paid.  Boys moved to their waiting conveyances and headed home, bone tired and weary, to await the next call to work.

Road Trip - 1956 Style


 

I

 have always, always loved a road trip!  I love to travel by automobile!  I love to watch the scenery pass by as the vehicle travels down the highway.  I love to stop and enjoy the many, many sights which are to be found along the highways.

Mom and Putt let it be known that we were going on a road trip.  Over a period of a few days, Putt prepared the old green, 1947 Chevrolet 4-door automobile for the trip.  Mom fixed some ham and cheese sandwiches, some potato salad, and other treats for us to enjoy on the trip.  On the appointed day, I emerged from the house on Sycamore Street, a Fedora hat which Grandpa Impson had recently given to me squarely upon my head.  A photo at the time shows me firmly holding my sister Cheryl’s hand, smiles on both of our faces, as we moved to take our places in the car.  Not shown in the photo is baby brother Jim, a toddler, who likewise took his place on the back seat of the car.

Then we were off!  Putt maneuvered the car down Sycamore Street, and turned at the intersection of that street and Maple Street.  He pulled the car into the Cities Service gas station, where he checked the oil, topped off the gasoline in the tank, and washed the windows.  He paid the bill, climbed back into the car, pulled back onto Maple Street, and made the turn on Highway 559 toward Woodstock.

We enjoyed the short ride to Woodstock, where we stopped at the corner drug store.  Mom walked inside to purchase some “Charms” lollipops…one of our family’s favorite treats.  She returned in just a few minutes, Putt started up the car once again, and we drove off toward Milford Center.  We stopped at the Ohio Orchard there, while Mom and Putt selected some sweet, red apples, and sour Granny Smith apples, and a jug of cold, apple cider…some additional treats to enjoy on our trip.  Back on the highway again, Putt put the old Chevy on course for the rest of our adventure.

We traveled the roadways through the countryside.  We passed through rural areas, small towns, and larger communities.  We drove and drove into the night.  The sun bright day gave way to darkness, and with the darkness came the rain.  The windshield wipers flashed back and forth on the glass windows, with a rhythmic sound akin to music as they completed the cycle, to which I added my own words:  “Kiss me another, kiss me another, kiss me another…”  Mom, Cheryl and Jim were fast-asleep.  I could not sleep…I did not want to sleep.  I enjoyed the sound of the rain as it hit and bounced on the car’s metal roof, and against the class windshield and windows.  It was a comforting, sound, accompanied by the fragrant odor of freshness as the rain watered the countryside.  There was also the pungent odor of dust as the rain hit the hot roadway.

 Putt drove that night until we stopped at Gallipolis, Ohio.  He had relatives who lived there, and our trip was to include a visit with them.  For the night, however, Mom and Putt had elected to stay in a roadside motel.  Putt located the intended destination, and pulled into the entrance area near the motel’s office.  They exited the car, walked under the sheltered portico, and entered the building.  In a few minutes, they returned with the key to our place of lodging.

Putt parked the car in front of the motel room, unlocked the door, and began to carry luggage and other items into the place.  Mom carried Jim into the room, as Cheryl and I made our way there.  Mom then returned to the car to help bring in our belongings.  In short order, the car was emptied and locked.  Mom opened one of our metal chests, and set up a meal of sandwiches, potato salad, baked beans, apples, and apple cider upon the circular table in the room.  We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, prepared for bed, and were soon fast asleep.

We awoke early the next morning for the drive to Putt’s relatives’ home. Everyone washed up and dressed.  The car was quickly reloaded, the key returned to the office, and off we went toward the relatives. They welcomed us there with a hearty breakfast of pancakes, syrup, hot chocolate, and fresh cinnamon rolls.  The conversation was lively and interesting as they talked about what adventures the day held in store for us.  We cleaned up the breakfast table, while the ladies washed and dried the dishes.  We then piled into two cars for the drive to a special farm we intended to visit.  Mom and Putt made a yearly pilgrimage to a place called “Bob Evans Farm” to purchase several months’ supply of freshly cured ham and sausage.  The farm was very big, very well maintained, and very popular.  Folks came from all around Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia to purchase products at the farm.  Mr. Evans, who owned and operated the place, was a genial, smiling man who loved to talk with the people who visited him there. 

Their purchases completed, we drove back to the relatives’ home.  We stopped along the way there while Putt purchased some ice cubes to put into the metal chests.  He then repacked the chests with packages of the ham and sausages.  When all was in order a lunch was prepared.  After eating, Mom helped once again with the dishes.  We moved outside to the car, waved our goodbyes, and drove away.  Putt headed the old Chevy toward the Ohio River.  He found a bridge to cross it and drove us to an overlook point.  We got out of the car, walked toward the steep bank which led down to the river, and tossed rocks into it.  We took several pictures on the old Kodak Brownie camera, got back into the car, crossed back into Ohio, and continued our journey.

As we drove back toward North Lewisburg, Putt took some unfamiliar roads to take us to the Logan Elm.  This was an historic tree, under which the Native American chief Logan had recited his mournful, poetic cry after his family was brutally slain by a mob of whites.  The old tree was massive…its long, thick limbs were held in place by wires.  This support was necessary because of the age of the tree, and the fact that it had been damaged so many times over the course of two centuries.  We were treated to a special event as a young man stood under the spreading limbs of the tree as he recited Logan’s lament.  It was very moving.

We drove back home over the course of the next few hours, and arrived back at our little house on the corner of Sycamore and North Streets.  We carried our treasures into the house…we enjoyed those sweet and tart apples, and apple cider, and apple butter over a period of the next few days.  Sausage and ham from Bob Evans’ farm graced our table for several months.  Mom had the photographs developed, and mounted them in a photo album so we could enjoy the memories of our road trip time and time again.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Trips to the Ohio Orchard


One of the traditional yearly excursions for families who lived along Spain Creek was the fall trip to the Ohio Orchard in Milford Center, Ohio.  Everyone loved those delicious, crisp, apples…in all varieties…which were harvested and sold there.  Bushel basket after bushel basket of the healthy treats made their way into the trunks of automobiles for the rides back to the respective homes.  Gallon jugs…glass ones ‘back in the day…of fresh, sweet, ice cold apple cider were relegated to the same automobile trunks for the trip home.  There, large glasses of the nectar were poured and enjoyed.  All to soon the glass jugs were drained, and impatient people had to wait for the next opportunity to return to the orchard to purchase more of the sweet fluid.

            Apple butter was available, too.  That heavenly concoction was beyond description when liberally spread on warm toast, or biscuits!  Those same impatient people also spread the fruit treat on untoasted bread…more anxious were they for the taste of the apple butter than the medium by which it was moved from table to hand to mouth!

            The sweet or tart apples purchased by the bushel basket were placed in the pantry, or on the back porch, or somewhere similar where they would remain crisp and available.  They were taken out singly, washed, rubbed and brushed to a perfect shine before teeth bit into them, the juices running freely from mouth to chin.  Older folks…those fortunate enough to carry trustworthy pocket knives…sliced the apples, or pared the skin from them before partaking of them.  Cooks in countless kitchens cored and peeled the apples and prepared them in pies, or cobblers, or tarts, or cakes, or mashed them up to prepare applesauce.  For Halloween…and even for times which were less scary…apples were placed on sticks and then quickly dipped in caramel, or that delicious, sticky cinnamon coating, or even chocolate.  Others were dipped yet again into chopped peanuts.  They were enjoyed as special treats at Halloween, and Christmas, and any time Mom or Grandma made the extra effort to create them.

            Some apples were washed and cored, then stuffed with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, then baked for a short period of time, and served with the breakfast meal…or the supper meal…as a special treat.  Many people poured hot, melted, creamy butter over this apple dish with no regard for the calories!

            Warm apple pies were best served with large scoops of home-made vanilla ice cream! The heat from the pie melted the ice cream at just the right pace to provide a rich, creamy, absolutely delicious sauce for the cinnamon-flavored apple creation. 

            Apples found their way into kids’…and adults’…lunchboxes over the next several weeks after the orchard visit.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” was an adage worth remembering.  And Moms remembered to safeguard the health of their kids and spouses by placing one of those red, or green, or yellow apples in each lunch.

            A trip to the orchard was an adventure.  The purchases were made with great expectations as to how the apples, or the cider, or the apple butter would taste in any of their configurations.  Kids and adults looked forward to the wonderful treats which were yet to come from the kitchens of talented Moms and Grandmothers, Aunts, and Sisters.  And all looked forward with anticipation to the return trip to the Ohio Orchard during the next apple harvest season!

Those Bicycle Rides to Cable


Bicycles provided us with mobility.  As we grew older ‘back in the day, the two-wheeled cycles gave us an independence we had not until that time enjoyed.  It was so very easy to move from one part of North Lewisburg to another in a relatively short period of time.  A few of us gathered at some designated place, and then set out upon the streets and roads to find new adventures.  Some of these bicycle excursions were short, and required little time.  Others became more physically demanding.

            In the summer of 1957, we boys of the ‘burg began to spread our wings.  We not only traveled every street and alley way of the town; we hopped upon our trusty two-wheeled steeds and ventured out into the countryside.  Sometime during that summer, we rode from town all the way to Triad High School, easy enough to do on the paved roads which connected town with country.  We stopped along the way and visited for a short period of time with Bob White.  Ever committed to his farming chores and duties…Merritt was a demanding taskmaster…Bob was never able to “break away” from those duties to join us on the bicycle road trips.  But, his home became a familiar way station, and we tried to spend at least a little time with him on every trip.

             After one or two excursions to Triad High School, we decided to travel a bit farther.  We passed by the school, and traveled familiar roads to Middleton pond, and on to Fountain Park.  On other occasions, we turned to make visits to the home of Marvin Watkins…another way station which became important.  Pressing on, we crossed over “Cry Baby Bridge,” – always in the daytime, of course – and then pedaled into Cable, Ohio.  We had friends from that community whom we had met via Little League, or school band, or similar activities.  We knew that many of them would be our classmates when we returned to school in the fall – our first year at Cable Junior High School.

            We traveled the streets of Cable, and occasionally stopped for a bottle of pop and a bologna and cheese sandwich at Evans Grocery.  Sometimes we patronized Bill and Suzie Humphrey’s store just a short distance away.  We developed a taste for the delicious hot dogs and ice cream sundaes which were served there…a taste which we carried through the next two years while attending Cable Junior High School.  (Many of us were to take our noonday meal at Bill and Suzie’s during our 7th and 8th grade years at Cable).

            We spent hours in the town on a regular basis throughout that summer.  We even met several of the young girls who were destined to be our classmates in the fall.  Infatuations bloomed, telephone numbers and photographs were exchanged, and the future looked bright for romance.

 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Bus, The Dairy, The Train, and The Movie


When I was in the fifth grade (1956) at North Lewisburg Elementary School, the teacher, Mrs. Mary Louden, and the room parents who supported her, planned an exceptionally unique school field trip.  On the appointed day, we students arrived at the school.  Roll was taken, attendances recorded, and last minute rules were discussed.  Then, we were herded out of the room, down the steps, and onto the waiting busses.  In a very short period of time, we were off on our way to Bellefontaine, Ohio.  There, we visited the Hopewell Dairy.

 Upon arrival at the facility, we students were ushered into the plant.  It was cool and crisp inside, the low temperatures required throughout the building in order to keep the raw milk and the dairy products fresh.  We were led past great metal vats of raw milk, gathered just the night before or in the wee hours of the morning from area dairy farms.  The liquid was mixed in these great vats, and then passed through a process called homogenization so the milk was purified before being used in other products.  Milk, cottage cheese, butter, and ice cream were all produced at this one facility.  The whole place smelled of milk, and dairy products.
 
The tour eventually ended, and the students were once again ushered out of the building.  We returned to our waiting busses, where we quickly ate our lunches which we carried in metal lunchboxes or paper sacks.  Free white and chocolate milk…gift products from the Hopewell Dairy…were distributed.  Clean up followed, and then our big, yellow busses rolled down the streets for our next destination.

We arrived at the railroad station, we left the busses, and walked along the platform to the waiting passenger train.  We were escorted aboard the massive train to our seats.  In short order, the conductor cried “All Aboard,” the train began to roll forward, and we were on our way to the neighboring community of Urbana!

The ride was relatively short, but still an adventurous one!  We freely walked the aisles of our train car; some particularly daring individuals passed from one car to another while we were in motion!  We talked, and laughed, and looked out the windows at the scenery as it sped by us.  It was so very cool!

We arrived at the train station in Urbana to find our busses awaiting us again.  We left the train, boarded the busses, and were driven to the beautiful Gloria Theater in “downtown” Urbana.  The busses pulled in front of the building so we could dismount onto the street.  We walked into the spacious, well-decorated theater.  As we passed the concession stand, we spent our few coins on popcorn, and pop, and candy.  We walked past the huge portrait of Gloria Grimes, the young girl for whom the theater had been named, filed into the auditorium portion of the place, and found our seats.

The house lights were dimmed, the tremendous curtain at the front of the theater opened, and images began to cascade upon the huge screen.  We were treated to previews of coming attractions, a short color cartoon, and then a “selected short subject.”  In this case, it was the story of a prairie dog town, and “The Vanishing Prairie.”

Next came the feature film…the new Disney movie, “Westward Ho, the Wagons.”  It starred Fess Parker, who we all recognized from “Davey Crockett” fame, Kathleen Crowley, Jeff York, Sebastian Cabot, George “Superman” Reeves, Iron Eyes Cody, and one of the stars of the “Mickey Mouse Club” on television, Cubby O’Brien.  It was the adventurous story of a large wagon train of pioneers as they made their way westward across the American prairies.  It was colorful, exciting, and a bit “mushy” with the incorporated love story.  But, all in all, it was big, and fast-paced, and filled with great songs:  “Westward Ho, the Wagons,” “The Ballad of John Colter,” “Wringle Wrangle,” “I’m Lonely My Darlin’”, and “The Pioneer’s Prayer.”
 
The movie ended, the closing credits rolled upon the screen, the house lights came up again, and we kids trooped out of the building to our waiting busses.  We rode the sixteen miles or so back to North Lewisburg as we sang rousing renditions of some of the songs we had enjoyed during the movie.  We arrived back at school, left our faithful yellow busses, and went through our final headcount before we were dismissed to go our separate ways.  Most of us hurried home to share the day’s adventures with family and friends.  A few of us had newspaper routes or assigned chores to complete before the day’s end.  All of us had shared in a unique experience, one which we would remember and cherish for many years to come.

            Author’s Note:  “Westward Ho, the Wagons” in DVD, and the soundtrack are both available on Amazon.com and through other media retail outlets.

Baling Hay With Bob White


I enjoyed spending time with my friend, Bob White.  We were buddies from first grade at North Lewisburg Elementary School for the next 56-57 years.  I often went to his rural farm to pick him up to accompany me to the movies, or to go bowling.  I stayed with him many, many times during the hunting seasons when we walked around the farm in pursuit of those elusive pheasants or rabbits.  I worked with him as he completed the many chores and tasks which were a regular routine on the farm.

Sometimes, we worked together on some of the other farms which were adjacent to his home.  We often assisted one of his neighbors, Otis Smith, who operated the farm owned by Mrs. Ethel Kaufman, just a short distance from the White family home.  Otis regularly called on us to help him during the hay and straw baling seasons of the year.
 
Bob or I drove a tractor and rake while crossing the fields and gathering the newly-cut hay into long, narrow rows.  After the hay cured, Otis generally drove the tractor and baler, which towed a hay wagon behind.  Bob and I stood waiting on the wagon.  Otis drove the outfit as we  worked up and down the fields while we followed the rows of hay.  As we slowly moved along, the old, red baler spit out heavy bales of hay.   Each bale slid out of the machine and up a metal slide.  As it neared the end of that operation, Bob or I quickly stepped forward.  Each of us held a metal hook in our leather-gloved hands, with which we grabbed the bale.  We pulled the bale from the machine, slid it across the wagon’s floor, and stacked the bale at the far end of the wagon.  This process continued until the bales were stacked several tiers high.  Then, either Bob or I climbed atop the bales to position ourselves to hook and move additional bales which were tossed atop the pile when they were extruded from the baler.  Working in concert together, it was thus pretty easy…and less backbreaking…to load the wagon.  Eventually, the wagon was completely loaded from front to rear.  There was little space to stand at the front of the wagon as bale after bale closed the gap.  The loaded wagon was then taken to the barn, where a conveyor belt was rigged up to move the bales from the wagon to the loft.  Bob or I took turns in the loft, generally the hottest and most uncomfortable job associated with baling hay, while the other systematically assisted Otis as the wagon was off-loaded.  The process completed, our trio returned to the waiting field to load yet another wagon.  Entire mornings or afternoons were spent in the loading and unloading of wagons.  The only interruption to our work was the periodic water break, or the very special noon-time meal we enjoyed at Mrs. Kaufman’s table.

One time, Otis, Bob and I were actively involved in loading one of the hay wagons.  We slowly moved along as the baler gathered up the sweet-scented hay, bundled the bales with string, and pushed the bales along to the waiting trailer.  The wagon was already nearly full; there was very little space, outside of the very top of the stack of bales, for either Bob or I to stand.

I was the first one to see it.  I starred at it for several seconds because I was unsure exactly what it was I saw.  As a bale slowly moved in rhythm through the process, I detected movement.  The bale inched closer and closer to my narrow place on the front of the wagon.  I hesitantly extended my arm with the metal hook to snag and pull the bale.  I caught my arm in mid-swing, my eyes bugged almost out of my head. 
 
There, in the bale, a great bit of its tail securely held deeply within the bale, was a very long, very thick, very black, and very pissed off snake!  It writhed to and fro as it tried, unsuccessfully, to free itself from the bale.  It hissed, and struck out in anger as it made it known that it did not intend to remain a part of that bale!

Now, anyone who knows anything about me at all knows that there are only two types of snakes that I do not like…live ones and dead ones!  This snake was in the former category, very much alive and very much upset!  It did not take me long to determine that this snake was not…repeat NOT…going to share that wagon with me!

But, the bale moved closer to me, the snake both inside and outside of it.  The bale very soon reached my location, and that very angry snake with it!

Bob saw the commotion by this time, and realized what was happening.  He knew of my loathing of snakes…we had somewhat discussed that loathing just a few months before when he visited me in North Lewisburg.  Along Spain Creek, at the old Black Bridge, I made it abundantly clear to him that I did not like snakes.

And, I especially did not like a writhing, angry, and unpredictable snake which was at that moment approaching me semi-encased in a bale of hay.

I did what I had to do!  Abandoning all pretense of bravery, and showing a considerable lack of loyalty to my friend Bob, I jumped from the wagon.  I hit the ground on my feet, and moved forward to walk beside the wagon to see what happened next.
 
The snake-compressed bale moved off the chute, hit one of the other bales which was stacked on the wagon, and slowly bunched up.  It pressed against the stack of bales, and dislodged them somewhat, as it raised up toward the sky.  The snake waved and dipped and hissed as it rose higher, and higher into the air.  Suddenly, the bale passed beyond its center of gravity, and tumbled off the wagon!  It landed squarely in front of me, the menacing form of that long, evil snake undulating back and forth in front of me.

In quick succession, I noted that Otis looked back from the safety of his tractor seat, Bob jumped down from the top of the bales to land on one of the dislodged bales, and the snake still danced in front of me.

Otis stopped the tractor, dismounted, and came toward me.  Bob left the relative safety of the wagon to join me on the ground, a smile which was more of a smirk upon his face.  I backed up slightly, waited for the exact moment, and swung my metal hook in the direction of the snake.  Metal hook connected with snake flesh in mid air.  Result:  long, black, thick, angry snake exploded into two distinct pieces…one which flew through the air, and one which fell limply back onto the hay bale.

Disclaimer:  a snake was actually killed in the production of this scene.
 
I did not think Otis or Bob would ever stop laughing.  They guffawed, and hooted, and slapped their knees even while the airborne piece of the snake fell back to earth.  Otis walked up to the bale, put a gloved hand around the snake carcass and the other on the bale.  He tugged as he pulled the body from the bale.  Unceremoniously, he tossed it aside in the hay stubble.  Still laughing, he walked back to his tractor.

Bob retrieved the bale, lifted it back upon the wagon, climbed back aboard to rearrange the dislodged bales, fitted the recently-errant bale in place, then turned to offer me a hand-up so I stood once again upon the wagon.

Our ensemble then drove across the field, back onto the highway, and off to the barn. 

Ralph:  1  Snake:  0